View Full Version : My first still life from the reference photo repository

08-31-2013, 03:12 PM
Hi, this is my first attempt at a still life in watercolour. Its about 9 inches by 6 inches using windsor and newton artist paints on some paper I had hanging around.


Thank you for all your help on my other picture. What do you think to this one please.


09-01-2013, 03:36 AM
What I was wondering was whether I am approaching watercolour correctly. I am used to working in Acrylic and Oils, this is a new medium for me and I think I may not be approaching it properly. Am I using watercolour too much like oils? I am quite pleased with this picture but I really wanted the thoughts of more experienced watercolour artists and indeed any other people who might offer an opinion. This will help me greatly in exploring my use of watercolour; I really am a beginner here. Thank you. Adie:cool:

09-01-2013, 05:10 AM
You did a beautiful job with this lovely reference photo which many of us have also painted. :D

It does have the look of an oil painting about it. Perhaps you need to use a bit more water with your paints and let them flow on the paper more to get the watercolor look.

Have you checked out the section in the Learning Demos (http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?p=3832113#post3832113) called Beginners Corner? You might find some of those exercises fun to paint.



09-01-2013, 05:17 AM
Thank you Silvia. I wonder if there is a way to view other peoples work from this and other reference material on WetCanvas. I am so impressed with WetCanvas, it's made up of very generous and passionate people. More comments very welcome.


09-01-2013, 05:25 AM
P.S. I may have put this thread in the wrong forum. Maybe it should have been in the learning forum given that this is not a work in progress. Apologies if so. Adie

09-01-2013, 06:14 AM
Hi Adie,
If people know that you would like to see their versions of this reference photo, all you need to do is ask. You know artists love to show off their work, especially to other artists. :D There isn't any one thread where people post their paintings done from the reference image library photos, but people usually mention it as you did.

You might want to check out the Monthly Classes (especially the Homework portions) and KIUAN threads. People in them usually painted from the same photo or photos and the instructor and others commented on them. You will find the link in my signature line.

Here is the one I did a couple of years ago:


I can see a lot I would change now...there are too many hard edges and not enough soft ones and the shadows are too dark and monotone, for example. But if you look at the background and where the tones transition on the apples and the pot, I think you will see that I used softer washes (and numerous glazes) than in your painting. That is because I probably used more water in my color mixes.

The Studio is where we ask for help with a painting, so you are in the right area, I think. The Learning Zone is for technical type questions. ;)


09-01-2013, 06:18 AM
thank you both. :-) More water, less whisky!

09-01-2013, 12:18 PM
Nice one, Adie! Yes, you are using it more like the opaque form of watercolour, gouache. Not wrong, just not taking advantage of the capacities of the transparent watercolour medium. Try some of the workshops on creating washes in the link Sylvia includes above.

09-01-2013, 01:05 PM
Hi Adie! Your painting is beautifully done. It does have the look of oils, but that doesn't detract from your excellent use of colour and value. The texture on your pot is gorgeous!

I tell my Students that in watercolour, they aren't painting so much as "guiding" their colour, allowing the water to do the work for them. Practice and persistence will be your friend.

Next, time... for your background, "prime" it was clear water. When the sheen has been absorbed, gently go over your paper with another clear water wash. Now, you can "charge" in your colour and watch what the water does with it, how it carries it, how other colours mingle. I highly recommend you practice this on a piece of scrap paper first, though!

I have my Students keep a small supply of 1/16th sheets (about 5x7) of paper to practice their techniques and colour mixes on. Many times it has proved to be a saviour because things don't always work out the way we plan them.

I painted this image some years ago... and actually, plan to do it again. I added a bit of holly because I wanted this to be my Christmas Card... I nearly ruined it, btw. The shadows presented some challenges for me at the time and my apple in the foreground looked pretty spoiled! :lol: I scrubbed it out and fixed it, but it never felt fresh to my eyes.

And, as you can also see, I was also "painting" my elements... it's going to be interesting to see how I'll approach this now.


09-01-2013, 02:51 PM
Thank you for your really helpful comments and especially for the clear instructions on how to guide paint, this is one of the things I lack any knowledge of. I am so delighted that I have found that I CAN paint in watercolours. Now to learn practice learn and practice. Joy!


09-01-2013, 03:33 PM

Here is a class about one of the basic techniques of watercolor: Washes (http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=475094). Check out the Homework thread that accompanies the tutorial, there is a link in the first post of the tutorial to it.


09-01-2013, 11:53 PM
Another thing that happens when you ask to see other's work on the same topic... people will run off and paint it just to be able to post their version too! We're all a bunch of show-offs here ;)

I like your treatment of this photo, and I can see the heritage of your oil experience as well. It looks good! A well done painting is a well done painting. :thumbsup: As far as exploring the unique qualities that the watercolor medium has to offer, more water is definitely in order and you've received good advice about that already.

Something you might want to try as an exercise are swatch cards... cut up some little pieces of paper, maybe index card size, and divide into squares (or rectangles, if you like). Paint the following squares, using just one paint per card:

Thick and pasty, mostly paint
Thin and washed out, mostly water
A graded wash, from thick to watery
Wet one square with clear water twice like Char suggested, then let a drop of medium-thick paint fall on it, and let dry without touching it.
Paint one more with medium paint, let it almost dry, and drop clear water into it when it's just damp.
One last square, put a black line or dot in it with waterproof ink, and let that dry. Paint over it. When it is good and dry, come back with a wet brush and try to remove some of the paint (A thin, soft flat brush will do this well without ripping your paper.)

What you're testing:

What the color looks like at full strength, also called "masstone"
What it looks like as colored water - a tint
How smoothly you can go from one to the other (or not!). Also, you might be able to see whether the paint acts like liquid dye or if it's somewhat gritty, a quality called granulation
How it behaves "wet-into-wet"; important for soft backgrounds and special effects
How an influx of water affects the drying paint, and how much it is subject to "blooms" or backruns. (This effect is nice when you want it, and :evil: if not.)
How opaque it is (transparency) and whether it can be removed later (staining).

These qualities occur in all combinations. For example there are opaque blues and transparent ones, some stain and some are granular. You gain a lot of power as a watercolorist, by choosing pigments offering the necessary color *and* characteristics, to get the exact effect you want.

Combined with the wash class, a project like this will teach you a LOT about the paints that you have. Watercolor has a mind of it's own, and the exact same pigment will behave differently in student vs professional paint, and even from brand to brand. There's no substitute for getting to know the paint that you actually have in hand.

Since you're new to watercolor (how fun!) the way different paints handle will probably surprise you. Enjoy discovering that, and use what you learn to advantage. Next time you'd like colors softly mingling in a background, you'll know which ones will oblige, and which ones will just sit there mocking you. :) Likewise, if you want the paint to stay where you put it, you'll know which to use and which to avoid for that, too.

Here's a couple of mine. I didn't do a tint swatch, as I expected to see what I needed in the graded wash; I also tested another quality: how it responds to salt sprinkled on the wet paint. Note the two browns are the same pigment, but different brands. There's some differences, especially on swatch 5. (I did the blue card differently, squares are out of order. I also put contrails on it, looked so much like a sky I could not resist ;))

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/01-Sep-2013/489581-swatchcards_PY150_-PB16.jpg http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/01-Sep-2013/489581-swatchcards_PBr7_burnt-Umber-Brands.jpg

Sounds like a lot to know, and it is. Don't stress though, painting is not homework. Paint a lot, learn at your own pace, and above all have fun!

09-02-2013, 03:56 AM
Many thanks for that Cyntada. I followed the washes video yesterday but I'm pants at it. anyhow I will have a go at your suggestion. I am learning about the need for tons of water gradually though. I did some colour mixing yesterday and found that the strong colour base I mixed became radically different when used in a 5% or less solution. It was a revelation. so many colours from one base and water, plus a little lemon yellow but only a touch. marvelous.

09-02-2013, 04:28 AM
Another thing to learn about watercolor and water, when you mix up a puddle of paint to use in your picture, if the color looks just right in the palette, it is probably wrong as my instructor always says. Watercolor dries lighter than it looks when wet, so I always do a test patch on a piece of scrap paper to see if it is as dark as I want when it is dry. ;)


09-02-2013, 04:50 AM
Lots of very good advice here!

09-02-2013, 07:17 AM
thanks for all your input everyone. I have such a lot to learn. WetCanvas has intensified my passion for art and set me great challenges. Wonderful. Clearly WetCanvas succeeds because of the strength and openness of it's contributors. Maybe one day I will be in a position to reciprocate. adie.

09-02-2013, 09:09 AM
Oh, you surely will! We are all still beginning, really. And yes, there's no better group of fellow artists anywhere on the internet, IMHO. Most of what I know was learned here, and for that, I am deeply grateful.